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INDY RACING LEAGUE Penske teammates get top qualifying berths



Published: Sat, August 20, 2005 @ 12:00 a.m.



Helio Castroneves is on the pole and Sam Hornish is at his side.

FOUNTAIN, Colo. (AP) -- Helio Castroneves walked into the room with a huge grin, put one hand on Sam Hornish Jr.'s shoulder, then started pumping his fist.

Always excitable, Castroneves was thrilled that the Marlboro Team Penske Racing teammates had just earned spots on the front row for today's Honda Indy 225.

Of course, Castroneves probably should have expected it the way he and Hornish have dominated the short ovals in the Indy Racing League circuit this season.

First pole in a while

Castroneves earned his first pole in nearly two years, edging Hornish by 0.0023 seconds on Saturday for the team's third straight pole on short tracks. The two-time Indianapolis 500 winner finished the mile tri-oval in 20.5218 seconds (175.423 mph), earning his first pole since October 2003 at Texas Motor Speedway.

"I feel better because you basically have to drive the car," Castroneves said. "At some of the other tracks, you're just along for the ride. I guess, especially at the short ovals, we've been working extremely hard and our best chance of seeing victory and running really, really fast is at those tracks. I'm very happy to see both cars sitting on the front row."

Patrick fifth

Danica Patrick had the day's fastest practice time, finishing in 20.546 seconds during the second session. But when the temperatures cooled and the wind switched in qualifying, her team had trouble getting the setup right, ending up fifth at 20.6435 seconds.

"We weren't perfect on the gears, but we just used the information that we had and the car was strong," Patrick said. "We never know with the wind conditions and the cooler track if you make the right changes. But it was good and we'll get ready for the race."

It's no surprise with how well the Castroneves and Hornish have attacked the short tracks this season.

Castroneves won on the three-quarter mile oval in Richmond, was second on the 1-mile oval at Phoenix and two of his three front-row starts this year have been on short tracks -- June 26 in Richmond and last month in Milwaukee.

Hornish won in Milwaukee and Phoenix, and has finished second three times, including on the 1.33-mile tri-oval at Nashville. He also qualified first at Milwaukee and Richmond, where he was running second on lap 165 before spinning and hitting the wall.

Work cars around track

Part of the teammates' success is that Castroneves and Hornish like to work their cars around the track, maneuvering through traffic instead of just going as fast as they can.

It also helps that they share information, tweaking their cars based on what the other is doing. That certainly played a role in qualifying Saturday, with Castroneves changing his gearing based on what Hornish had done in practice.

"The way I see it, we're pushing each other," Castroneves said. "Sharing information is good because it's going to make both cars better. I think our team and the way it works is the right chemistry and the right combination, and we're looking to keep doing the right thing."




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